Life’s Lesson: Aim To Live


Digital StillCamera

It has been a long time since I posted on my blog, far too long actually.  It’s been a rough time but after listening to a video about Zach Sobiech, I’m here to let you know I’m improving – a promise I make to myself, my late husband, and my family of friends.

 

I’ve told you about my late husband suffering from depression, which nobody knew about.  And how he took his life May 4, 2010.  I found him, tried resuscitating him, however, it was too late.

 

It’s not too late for others though.  And while I’ve written about much information on suicide prevention, symptoms of depression and other information surrounding this growing epidemic, I’m now going to tell you something a bit more positive.

 

In grieving loss by suicide, you never have closure.  So many questions remain without answers and, of course, one becomes angry during the process of healing.  Anger for me was partly in the promise when we Martin and I married, until death do us part.  We promised to “always love each other.”

 

How does one do that really?  Don’t we all assume that ‘death’ is a very long time into the future?  I know that I certainly felt that way.  However, for me it was less than a year.  I felt angry and cheated.  Until today that is.  This young man, Zach, lived his life.  He didn’t take it sitting down.  He even spoke of dreaming and talking of plans with his girlfriend about how many kids they should have.  All this while knowing he had but a few months left to live.  That’s when it hit me.

 

Martin did make good on his promise.  He loved me until “death do us part.”  And most of all, he loved me the best he could.  I couldn’t ask for more.  It would be unfair.

 

Like Martin, those pondering suicide feel there is no way out of their black hole, the pit of life they often refer to.  He couldn’t handle it any longer and I, like most people, didn’t understand the signs and what he was going through.  He never spoke of such things – ever.  His family never even knew.

 

So my purpose of this writing?  To recognize that life is about living, not waiting to die.  And love is about doing just that – love the person the “best you can” while you can.  Martin loved me for three years, although we were married less than a year.  He brightened my world with happiness, laughter, and joy during those three years, up until the end.

 

In a way, he lived like he was dying – doing the best he could with the most love and interest and honor he could muster.  I loved him then and I love him now.

 

Please don’t wait until the right moment(s) … don’t use life as a springboard for the proverbial, “when life is more positive or we’re better off …” routines.  Live your life – truly live it.  Never hesitate to tell that certain someone, or family and friends, whomever … that you love them.  And don’t hesitate to engage in an activity you really enjoy or want to try.  Never let your last words or thoughts be, “I wish I had …”

 

In essence, live positively no matter what is occurring in your life.  This young man did.  He was a teenager and he died today, May 20 from Osteosarcoma.  And he was the most positive influence in the lives of his family, friends, and now those strangers who learn about his life through his songs, the video his family made, as well as the Fund created in his name.

 

For anyone out there who is dealing with depression, please seek all available help.  Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  If you know someone, or suspect someone has difficulties in this area, talk gently with them and help them to seek help from medical professionals, therapists, psychologists, doctors, nurses.  There is help out there, and sometimes all we need is an ear, or a hand.   Never judge or dictate what that person should do.  But gently tell them you’re there for them and you will be through whatever methods they choose to get help.

 

And I hope everyone out there reading this remembers to LIVE life, don’t sit back and let anything pass you by!  And don’t forget to LOVE and let those you love know about it!

Don’t be afraid your life will end; be afraid it will never begin”

Grace Hansen

 

 

 

 

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Has Suicide Affected Someone You Know? You Will Get Through This


Be Kind Fighting Hard Battle

Much has transpired since that fateful day back on May 4, 2010 when my husband took his own life through suicide.  And there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t try to reconcile with myself all of the things I’ve felt, actions I’ve taken, tears I’ve cried and important lessons I’ve learned.

Because people often ask me questions about suicide and depression, I’ve often thought about how to impart helpful information and help folks understand the dilemma facing those of us who are called “survivors” of suicide.

For the first six or seven months after the suicide, I cried.  Not just off and on during the days and nights but a steady stream of weeping and wailing as an expression of the grief I was experiencing.  Finally I asked Hospice and therapists, “When will I ever get over this?”  The answer may surprise you.  I was told, “You never get over it.  You learn to live through it.”

Don't lose hope

My life felt hopeless and was spiraling downward as suicidal thoughts took over my thinking.  In fact, I even purchased the items in order to go through with it.  I wasn’t proud of that but rather just wanted and needed the pain to stop and the darkness to end.  I was so fortunate that something inside my usually positive self raised up and I wept (again) but this time with a realization that I could not end my own life when I had yelled out all these months how could my husband do this to those who loved him.

Since I became reclusive, I began to read articles, stories, poems, and my journal aloud.  Partly because I was so lonely, and partly so the deafening silence wouldn’t frighten me so much.  That’s when it happened – I changed.

Reading my journal helped me to keep time a bit more functional for me and also helped remind me how I was coming along in very tiny baby steps.  I read aloud the answer to when I’d get over this.  And repeated it aloud and slowly, “You never get over it.  You learn to live through it.”  I wept unabashed for a long while that day.  And I believe fervently that this was the beginning of my reality to live through this.

I needed to find little bits of happiness in my life – daily if I could.  And thankfully I believe there is a God and I also believe in angels.  Whether they come directly from that place referred to as Heaven, or they are those around us – a friend, neighbor, co-worker or stranger – there are angels among us.  And I always remembered to pray at night … not the usual way, for it would make me weep incessantly and I was always so worn out from the tears and raw emotions.

Household duties were difficult at best as were outdoor gardening and pool cleaning.  But I began to be thankful that I had such things and not that I couldn’t care for them.  I began to realize there would come a day when things would improve.  In fact, for my personality, I found it was a necessity.

Girls closeup in office

With time, the tears lessened just a bit.  I was able to bring something new into my life.  I rescued two female dogs – or they rescued me – and opened my heart little by little.  I zealously believe that’s when my life began to change for the better.  It was now a year after Martin’s death and I was learning to live through it!

Often I’m asked so many questions because people are eager to learn.  It is amazing how many of us know someone, relatives, neighbors, co-workers etc. who have been affected from suicide in some way in their lives.  I’m making it something on my bucket list to continue to help educate and spread the correct information on mental illness, depression, and suicide.  These people aren’t crazy any more than I was in contemplating such an act.  They have an illness and need help – just as anyone would and should seek help for a physical illness.

This is Part 1 of what will become several parts, no doubt.  Truths need to be told, not false information given and I know that it takes time – baby steps – to understand and take it all in and learn from it.  If ever you have questions, please ask them.  I’ll do my best to honestly explain to you what I know from my experience and my research and learning experiences.  I do not claim to know it all – never think that.  However, I know that to “live through it” we must help one another to understand coping with this disease by gathering the tools you’ll need someday.  And if I can help, I’ll be pleased to do so.

Have yourself a great weekend.  Please come back to read more of my experiences “living through this.”

 JSpic

 

How I’m Learning to Dance Through The Rain


I am reminded today of Garth Brooks’ song: 

The Dance

Looking back on the memory of

The dance we shared beneath the stars above

For a moment all the world was right

How could I have known you’d ever say goodbye

And now I’m glad I didn’t know

The way it all would end the way it all would go

Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain

But I’d of had to miss the dance

Holding you I held everything

For a moment wasn’t I the king

But if I’d only known how the king would fall

Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all

And now I’m glad I didn’t know

The way it all would end the way it all would go

Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain

But I’d of had to miss the dance

Yes my life is better left to chance

I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance

How true those words are.  Living through loss is difficult.  Living with and healing from a tragic loss is beyond the scope of natural understanding.  We don’t get to select which memories we will have.  And I admit that had I known my darling husband, Martin, would leave this world through suicide, I would have tried to change things and who knows what would have transpired.

However, as the song suggests, I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end.  We don’t want to experience the horrific pain that often comes after incredible joy.  But would we stop or try to prevent that extraordinary love and joy?  I wouldn’t, not for anything.

In this world, we are born to die.  An amazing beginning of birth, and a heartbreaking pain through death for those our loved ones leave behind.  Some day I hope to understand these things, but for now I accept that they occur.  And acceptance is the very factor which will see us through the anguish, pain and suffering.  Winston Churchill said, “If you think you’re going through Hell, keep on going.”  And I agree … not pleasant, but necessary.

What have I learned through this agonizing experience so far?  What must I still do to complete the healing?  Here are some facts and thoughts I’ve been through and offer all of you.

When a loved one dies, your grief may be heart-wrenching.  When a loved one commits suicide, your reaction is more complicated with overwhelming emotions.  You may be consumed by guilt, wondering if you could have done something to prevent their death.  As you face life after a loved one’s suicide, remember you don’t have to go through it alone!

  Shock, anger, guilt, despair all play a part in your healing.  You may continue to experience intense reactions months or years after your loved one’s suicide – including nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal, loss of interest in your usual activities – especially if you either witnessed or discovered the suicide, as I did.

I’ve learned to do what’s right for me, not my friends or family.  I’m living through this and I’m the one who needs patience, kindness and understanding.   We need to be gentle with ourselves and grieve in our own way and in our own time.  Don’t be hurried by anyone else’s expectations that it has been “long enough.”  Losing someone to suicide is a tremendous blow and healing must occur at its own pace!

And be prepared for painful reminders such as an anniversary, or a birthday – his is tomorrow, August 17 which is what prompted this writing.  Some days will be better than others, even years after the suicide – and that’s okay.   Healing doesn’t often happen in a straight line I’ve learned.  One step forward, two steps back sometimes.  And that’s okay!  And if you experience intense, unrelenting anguish or physical problems, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or mental health provider for help.  Depression is all too real.  As of 2007, there were
35,000 completed suicides in the U.S.   Every 16 minutes someone dies by suicide and it remains the 11th leading cause of death in this country.   It is estimated that close to one million people made a suicide attempt each year.  And research has shown that 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death, most often unrecognized or untreated depression.

Most important, I’ve learned I need to face the future with a sense of peace.  In the aftermath of a suicide, you feel like you can’t go on or that you’ll never enjoy life again.  In truth, you may always wonder why it happened – there is never closure or questions answered.  We must learn acceptance for the unknown present.  And eventually the raw intensity of your grief will begin to fade.  The tragedy won’t dominate your days and nights.  You can reach inner peace and healing without forgetting your loved one.

And I remember … all those loving memories and still would never want to have missed the
dance!  I am glad I left life to chance!

How Will You Play Cards You’re Dealt


The Elephant in the Room…

I lost my late husband about 11 months ago when tragedy occurred:  he took his own life.  For a few months after this traumatic event, I lived a dying existence.  Nothing mattered; I had no interest in any social events or activities which used to please me.  There was no pleasure in my life at that time. 

Today I have reasons for happiness.  Don’t misunderstand me – I remember him always knowing we were in love and shared immense happiness.   However, each day now I fill my world with a bit more love and joy in the little things.  How can I not?  My girls, two white boxers I rescued – or did they rescue me – share with me each day their unconditional love and endless forgiveness.  What could be better. 

That hole in my heart will always exist.  Though I can say with certainty that the healing process continues and I am inspired by Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture.  I am moved to finding all the ‘happy’ moments in my world and to enjoying the life I have.   Because when all is said and done, as Randy mentioned:  it’s about how you play the cards you’re dealt! 

Recently I came across the following story of Randy Pausch who used the Last Lecture to engage people to live life instead of just going through the motions.  The talk was modeled after an ongoing series of lectures where top academics are asked to think deeply about what matters to them, and then give a hypothetical “final talk”, with a topic such as “what wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?”  

 

I’d like to share it with you here and encourage you to follow his lead with your life.

 

The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”    ~Randy Pausch

 

Randy Pausch was 47 years old when he died from pancreatic cancer.  He was, as the Independent of London put it, “The dying man who taught America how to live.”  His book, The Last Lecture, is an international best-seller and it proffers many brilliant lessons about life. 

Randy Pausch’s “last lecture” was delivered September 2007, at Carnegie Mellon University, where he taught computer science.  The lecture began with him standing before a screen beaming down chilling CT images of tumors in his liver, under the title:  The Elephant in the Room.  He then said to a stunned audience, “I have about 6 months to live.”  He said, “I’m really in good shape, probably better shape than most of you,” dropping to the floor to do push-ups. 

He went on to say, “I’m dying and I’m having fun, and I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left.”  He talked about his childhood dreams and what they had taught him about life.  He said, “If you live your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself … your dreams will come to you.”

Randy Pausch really was a dying man who helped teach us how to live. 

He died on July 25, 2008 but his wisdom, his passion and his attitude are lasting sources of inspiration for all of us. 

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Experience Borne of Personal Grief


I have been going through a grief process from the sudden, unexpected loss of my husband.  I didn’t realize there was such a thing as grief spasms and a grief process and I knew far less how to deal with suicide.  There isn’t much understanding of grief in this society.  Many well intentioned people think we should “just get over it” and get on with our lives. 

Grief is very painful and at times the pain is intolerable.  It is a mixture of many emotions that come and go, sometimes without warning.  Grieving is the period during which we actively experience these emotions.  How long and how difficult the grieving period is depends upon our relationship with the person who dies, the circumstances of the death, and the situation of the survivor(s).   Grieving is a process we all must travel through. 

 There is no escaping it.  Experts describe the grieving process and those emotions of grief in various ways.  The most commonon described reactions include:  shock, denial, anger, guilt, depression, acceptance and growth.  Some of us experience the grieving process in this order.  Although most often a person feels several of these emotions simultaneously, perhaps in different degrees.

When death comes suddently, as in an accident or suicide, shock is often our first response.  We may be numb or like a robot, be able to go through the motions of life while actually feeling little.  At the same time, physical symptoms such as confusion and loss of appetite are common.

Shock and denial are natural ways of softening the immediate blow of death.  Denial can follow soon after the initial shock.  We know our loved one has died, but a part of us cannot yet accept the reality of death.  It is not uncommon to fantasize that our loved one will walk through the door, as if nothing has happened.  

Anger is perfectly normal.  It may be directed at the deceased for leaving and causing a sense of abandonment, or at the doctors and nurses who did not do enough.  People of faith may feel anger at God for allowing so much pain and anguish.  Anger may also be directed at ourself for not saving the life of our loved one.   

Few survivors escape feelings of guilt and regret.  “I should have done more” are words that haunt many people.  Were angry words exhcnaged?  Most people are very creative in finding reasons for guilt.  So many things could have been done differently “if only I had known.” 

Sadness is the most inevitable emotion of grief.  It is normal to feel abandoned, alone and afraid.  After the shock and denial have passed and the anger has been exhausted, sadness and even hopelessness may set in.  We may have little energy to do even the simplest chores.  Crying episodes may seem endless.   These are grief spasms.

I want you to know that time alone will not heal grief.  Acknowledging our loss and experiencing the pain may free us from a yearning to return to the past.  Acceptance does not mean forgetting, but rather using our memories to create a new life without our loved one. 

Grief is a chance for personal growth.  Some survivors seek meaning in loss and get involved in causes or projects that help others.  Some find a new compassion in themselves as a result of the pain they have suffered.  They may become more sensitive to others.  Some find new strength and independence they never knew they had.

Getting over a loss is slow, hard work.  In order for growth to be possible, it is essential to allow ourself to feel all  the emotions that arise, as painful as they may be, and to treat oneself with patience and kindness.  Personally, I choose the quote of Winston Churchill as my mantra, “If you feel like you’re going through Hell, keep going!”   Give into it — even give it precedence over other emotions and activities, because grief is a pain that will get in the way later if it is ignored.  Realize that grief has no timetable; it is cyclical, so expect the emotions to come and go for weeks, months, or even years.  While a show of strength is admirable, it does not serve the need to express sadness, even when it comes out at unexpected times and places.

It’s important to take time to seek comfort from friends who will listen.  Let them know you need to talk about your loss.  People will understand, although they may not know how to respond.  Also important remember to forgive yourself for all the things you believe you should have said or done.  And forgive yourself for the anger, guilt and embarrassment you may have felt while grieving.

Bereavement groups can help us recognize feelings and put them in perspective.  They can also help alleviate the feeling that we are alone.  The experience of sharing with others who are in a similar situation can be comforting and reassuring.  Sometimes, new friendships grow through these groups. 

What grief is not?  Grief is not a mountain to be climbed, with the strong reaching the summit long before the weak.  Grief is not an athletic event, with stop watches timing our progress.  Grief is a walk through loss and pain with no competition and no time trials.

Just remember:  Grief is normalYOU are normal.  Surrender to the process which follows significant loss.  I’m still surrendering to mine.  Still grieving and still trying to be kind and gentle with myself.  Over time, I’ll share with you and let you know how it goes.  We are endeavoring to travel down a new path, a new life.  This is truly the hardest thing in life we have ever had to do and we will get it through it.